South African MP and the grandson of Nelson Mandela, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, addressed a sold out crowd at the Palestine Expo in London yesterday, saying “We have a moral duty to support the BDS and to support the Palestinian struggle”.
Organised by the British NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), Palestine Expo has been dubbed the ‘biggest Palestine event in Europe‘, being held in the iconic Olympia Exhibition Centre in London.
In his speech, he also addressed efforts of the anti-Palestinian group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) in trying to cancel the Palestine Expo, calling them “defenders of a crime against humanity”.
Last week, a statement issued by Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela and the Royal House of Mandela read: “We wish to express our outrage and disgust at the intimidation tactics of the U.K. Lawyers for Israel. We say to them and all who seek to deny our basic human rights such as freedom of expression – hands off BDS, hands off Palestine Expo.”
The following is Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela’s speech to the Palestine Expo conference on July 6, 2019:
May the Peace and blessings of God Almighty be with you all.
It gives me great pleasure to be in your midst at this Palestine Expo. At the outset allow me to applaud Friends of Al Aqsa for an amazing accomplishment amidst immense pressure; this accolade they share with all the organizations, institutions and individuals who had the courage of conviction to associate their brands with a cause that my grandfather President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela described as the “the greatest moral issue of our time” – the struggle for Palestine. This morning I would like to reflect on that and place it in the context of the expo and the broader struggle for freedom of expression in the world today.
Before I do that let me say that it is always a special occasion for me to be in London to participate in revolutionary events such as this as I cherish some beautiful memories that my mother Nolusapho Mandela-Perry shared of her earlier days in London and participating in Anti-Apartheid mass demonstrations on Trafalgar Square in the mid 80s. It therefore feels good to be in your midst as we fly the Palestinian flag high over the next two days and beyond.
Comrades and friends; this is an amazing accomplishment and I hope that we will exceed the 15 000 mark achieved at the inaugural Palesine Expo in 2017. What is remarkable about this event is that it’s not just a political rally or mass demonstration. In our own struggle for freedom we learnt the lesson that the struggle must be waged on multiple fronts: cultural, academic, trade, political, diplomatic, sport, communication but most of all the battle of the hearts and the battle of perception. This multi-prong approach not only armed us with a greater diversity of tools of struggle, it also enabled us to attract a broader audience or support base that could constitute the basis for popular struggle.
The Palestine Expo must be congratulated on creating a unique experience, which proudly celebrates Palestinian art, history and culture whilst fostering discussion and activism in the UK. Allow me to elaborate briefly on why this is such a critical front in the struggle for a free Palestine. We had first-hand experience as an organization calling themselves UK Lawyers for Israel applied best efforts to stymie this event or to downplay support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Let me say it loud and clear for all to hear: Next to the internal popular protest movement waged in the face of all odds by the brave and courageous children, women and men of occupied Palestine, BDS is the most painful thorn in the side of Apartheid Israel.
They cannot stomach its worldwide popular appeal and success and will do all in their power and might to obstruct, hinder or stand in the way of any forum that advances the principles that BDS stands for. I have news for them. There is nothing you can do to stop the tsunami of history; you may frustrate, obstruct or obscure but in the end justice will prevail. In the 70s, 80s and early 1990s we too engaged in political action for the liberation struggle in South Africa. Apartheid South Africa and its imperialist allies too underestimated the power of the people but today we stand before you free from centuries of colonization and free from decades of apartheid brutality and discrimination. Today South Africa, tomorrow Palestine!! This gathering right here reminds us of our date with history.
My brothers and sisters; Palestine Expo reminds us of the reality of a nation that has now withstood 71 years of the Nakba. It reminds us of homes, farms and villages that was once home to a vibrant community with a proud history, culture, language and cuisine that has been usurped and occupied in gross violation of international law. Seven decades of ethnic cleansing and genocide perpetrated in the name of the myth of a land without people, for a people without land.
Palestine Expo raises the bar of awareness and consciousness by combining the use of traditional forms of education with cutting edge technology to raise awareness about Palestine. It brings people together to celebrate Palestine like never before. It holds the promise and the dream alive that one day we shall celebrate in a free Palestine; one day we shall celebrate in a free Jerusalem; the eternal capital of a Palestinian State.
Comrades and friends; I am often asked what is so important to us as South Africans about the Palestinian struggle that Madiba declared during his visit to Gaza in 1995 “that our struggle is yet incomplete without the Freedom of the Palestinian people.” What does this mean? In the darkest hours of our struggle when our leaders were incarcerated on Robben Island and other jails of Apartheid South Africa; whilst our cadres were driven into exile and our internal rebellion was being crushed; it was the images of the brave and courageous young people of Palestine armed with nothing but rocks and their bare hands that inspired us.
When they themselves were under siege and attack it was the leadership of the Palestinian struggle that provided home, training and financial support to our struggle. Our freedom is inter-connected with that of the Palestinian people because ours is a relationship forged in the heat of struggle and they were the strongest advocates of our freedom in every global forum where they raised the flag of our just struggle alongside the struggle of the Palestinian people.
There is another reality playing itself out today that ties our struggle by an umbilical cord. That reality is imperialism or neo-imperialism offered as the Deal of the Century. I have no hesitation in calling it what it is: The Hoax of the Century. I will come back to that in a moment but first allow me to remind you of what Malcolm X said just over half a century ago in an article “Zionist Logic,” published in The Egyptian Gazette on the 17 September 1964 just months before he was assassinated. In the article, Malcolm X notes the parallels between the subjugation of Palestinians and Africans. He pointed out the strategic value of Israel to world imperialism, and says “The ever-scheming European imperialists wisely placed Israel where she could geographically divide the Arab world, infiltrate and sow the seed of dissension among African leaders and also divide the Africans against the Asians.”
Towards the end of that article he says and I quote: “The Israeli Zionists are convinced they have successfully camouflaged their new kind of colonialism. Their colonialism appears to be more “benevolent,” more “philanthropic,” a system with which they rule simply by getting their potential victims to accept their friendly offers of economic “aid,” and other tempting gifts…” Malcolm X was referring to the newly-independent African nations, whose economies were experiencing great difficulties and whom Israel was manipulating to seek legitimacy.
So when the “leader of the free world” comes around offering golden hand-shakes and bearing Trump Card gifts which the Arab nations must pay for themselves we recognize the behaviour and smell a rat. Call it what you will but the Deal of the Century is a no deal and is only designed to fortify Apartheid Israel, legitimize its illegal settlements and forever forego the right of return of six million Palestinians living in exile. This Hoax of the Century has served to unite the voice of the Palestinian people in opposition to it but we must caution against the guile of imperialism.
My brothers and sisters; we are very clear about why we call it the Hoax of the Century. There are indeed those who say we should wait and at least see what deal is put on the table. The reality stares us in the face; Trump is not a friend of the Palestinian people and he will never act in our best interest. He is not even a friend of America and does not act in its best interests. Since coming to power he has cut development aid to Palestinian refugees and literally severed the pipeline that provides hope and much needed medical care for children some as young as one or two year old. He has defied international law and disregarded the global outcry against his announcement of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
Historically, the USA has proven that it is not a fair and honest broker of peace in Palestine or anywhere else. It will therefore never act against Israeli transgressions. That would be tantamount to acting against itself. Nor will the USA ever recognize the view that the cause of the conflict dates back to 1948 with the creation of Israel (rather than Israel’s views of 1967 being the crucial point and the return of occupied territories being central to peace negotiations), and that the conflict has been a fight to bring home refugees to a Palestinian state.
Those selling the Hoax of the Century must be told in no uncertain terms that the Freedom of the Palestinian People is not for sale. Through decades of struggle they have rejected all attempts at cooption and have persisted with the just moral stand that they are the victims of a process that they did not design nor did they approve of it nor will they ever approve of it. Even the good faith demonstrated by the Palestinians in the peace process has been betrayed by continued land grabs, expansion of illegal settlements and obstinate refusal to right of return for all refugees.
Comrades and friends; South Africans unashamedly demanded the right to self-determination and brought the brutal Apartheid State to its knees. Palestinians have earned the right to self-determination under International Law and innumerable UN Resolutions. This is a right that nobody could deny us and I dare say nobody has the right to deny the Palestinians the right to self-determination.
South Africa’s history since 1652 is a history of colonization and systematic dispossession. The SA Natives Land Act of 1913 overnight rendered blacks foreigners in the land of their birth and forced them onto 7% of the land. This was extended to 13% by 1936. Families and entire traditional communities were robbed of their homes, farms and their land. Their crops, cattle and possessions were either decimated or they had to pack whatever they could onto ox-wagons and head-off to homeland reserves.
Bantustans were created to move the majority of blacks from South Africa’s urban centres and by the end of Apartheid there were 10 Bantustans, 14 legislatures 151 departments, and 650 000 officials but they lacked any legitimacy. We recognize in the Deal of the Century the same hoax. We didn’t fall for it under Apartheid South Africa and the Palestinians are way too intelligent to fall for Apartheid Israel’s ethnic cleansing, segregation and separate development. We have been grappling with land reform and the restitution process since the dawn of democracy in 1994. This is the reality that we live through as South Africans.
Palestine Expo plays a significant role in raising awareness of the realities of life in occupied Palestine. It provides a valuable insight into Palestinian culture, political discourse and builds a platform where likeminded people can share a common platform to reflect on the continued occupation and belligerent expansion of illegal settlements, the plight of six million refugees in the Palestinian diaspora, the thousands of political prisoners languishing in apartheid Israeli jails including women and children, the imperialist attempt to annex the eternal capital Al Quds, and the daily humiliation and indignity meted out to Palestinians at border crossings and check points.
The occupation is real and the world must know the nature of the Israeli Apartheid state. In a recent article in Independent Newspapers Azad Essa of Al Jazeeera writes:
Israel has some 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian Muslims and Christians. It defines itself as a “state of the Jewish people”, but boasts of being a democracy. From the inception of the state in 1948 until 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel lived under a harsh military rule; they were treated as enemies of the state, had curfews and were not allowed to leave their towns. Today, Palestinians are discriminated against in terms of education, healthcare and legal services. For instance, since 1948, about 600 new towns for Jews have been built while not a single new Palestinian town has been recognized or developed. Palestinians are refused building permits.
During the course of the next two days of Palestine Expo we will hear first-hand from some of the most astute minds, scholars and activists who have dedicated their lives to the cause of the Palestinian struggle. They will deliberate on topics relevant to the struggle for Palestine including One State: The Future, Decolonising Palestine, Change for Palestine: an International Perspective, and Nation Law: Israeli Apartheid State.
One of the most significant achievements of Palestine Expo is that it has brought us all together from diverse backgrounds to participate and enjoy a unique experience. In my last visit to London a few months ago I made a clear call for unity; unity in action; unity in mobilization; unity in the face of a Zionist imperialist agenda that will stop at nothing short of total control over occupied Palestine. The voices who fear-mongered and tried to prevent Palestine Expo from providing any platform for BDS are doing the bidding of Apartheid Israel who have unleashed enormous resources to counter the work of BDS in every possible forum. We tell them in no uncertain terms that our voices will not be silenced.
We have a moral duty to support the BDS and to support the Palestinian struggle. We say to UK Lawyers for Israel that you are defending a crime against humanity; a crime against the Palestinian people. In a recent article 240 Israeli and Jewish scholars wrote that “the three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees-adhere to international law.” We did not need that affirmation but merely cite it to demonstrate the myopia and desperation of UK Lawyers for Israel and others who do the bidding of Apartheid Israel. We shall continue to speak out against those who seek to limit or criminalize our right to free speech.
On behalf of the Royal House of Mandela we wish the organizers of this Palestine Expo all the success in every aspect of this event. To BDS and the Palestinian people we say that we are morally bound to stand with you as comrades in the struggle for justice, freedom and peace.
In conclusion, I remind you of the historic words of my grandfather at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in December 1997 when he said and I quote: “The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own. We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.”
To all who have stood up to be counted and who are attending this Palestine Expo and supporting it, we say well done! May this event grow from strength to strength until our mission is fulfilled and we host it in a free Palestine!!
I thank you.